Dragon Fire. When did we let evil grow stronger than us? The journey of Sindarin Erebor's heroes continues!
Directed by: Peter Jackson.
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Manu Bennett Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter, Dean O'Gorman, Aiden Turner, John Callen, Peter Hambleton, Jed brophy, Mark Hadlow, Adam Brown and Benedict C*mberbatch as Smaug.
The second part of Jackson's expanded universe to one of Tolkien's most beloved books continues exactly where it left off. Not without a flashback of sorts that sheds some light on the first film's commencement. Before Gandalf and the group of Dwarves arrived to Bilbo's house, the movie opens to a conversation between our wizard and Thorin Oakenshield that leads the audience into the promised adventure of The Lonely Mountain and the terror that awaits beneath it. We then cut back to our heroes as they most recently escaped the claws of Azog the albino Goblin, The Defiler(Bennett). Who are these brave wandering folk I speak of ? Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, Fili, Kili, Oin, Gloin, Dwalin, Balin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, Nori, Ori and a partridge in a pear tree.
Yes, they are continuing their journey to take back what was taken from them from a giant lizard with an eye for riches. As they travel, we manage to seem some character evolution much anticipated in sequels. Martin Freeman now has the opportunity to illustrate his character's transformation upon obtaining the One Ring that rules them all. In a well executed scene between the group and a horde of bull sized spiders, Bilbo takes advantage of his new found power and we also see how the ring takes supremacy over his feeble mind. He becomes violent and desperate for his precious to the point where he can't believe it himself. Sure, there are a couple of times where he comes off as a twit, but you can see a further change in his persona since the last movie. Thorin progresses as well as he begins to think more like a king and less like a Dwarf lost in in a nest of death. Still, when the balance of his men and true kingdom are in the balance, he'll contemplate selfish reasoning to reign supreme. As we learned in the An Unexpected Journey, he who gains the Arkenstone reclaims their rightful seat in the throne under the Lonely Mountain. We can only hope Thanos doesn't get it first.
As our main characters improve, we get to see a batch of new faces and familiar ones too. Yes indeed the badass Elf archer himself, Legolas (Bloom) returns to Middle Earth. Though factually not part of the original story, him being part of this trilogy simply strengthens the quality of it all. He's never looked better and that's saying a lot. Considering he's basically flawless with an bow and arrow, we get to see an entirely new side to him. He's far more detached from the world and has some vulnerable moments never seen before. We meet his father the Elf King Thranduil (Pace) whom you might remember from the intro to the first Hobbit film. His personality makes it clear why Dwarves hate Elves, but it is also about the decisions he's made against them and the outside world. He's also one of the most beautiful looking character in the series.
I'll come out and say it, the Elves in the Tolkien universe are angels incarnate, which leads me to Lady Tauriel (Lilly). Tauriel is the newest creation to Middle Earth that makes Robin Hood, Hawkeye and Katniss Everdeen seem like kids in training wheels, even Legolas. Her aim is as true as the beauty she graces the stage with. The plot grows stronger with her and also hints a subtle romance between with that of Dwarf Kili. Though one could question that union, it's quite funny. I recall when these movies were still in production that Martin Freeman toyed around with the idea of Hobbits interacting in coitus. Peter Jackson has managed to easily blend all these amazing looking characters. Elves, Dwarves, Man, Wizards, and Goblins into this fantastical universe the likes of which Marvel should have done with Thor. As far as Wizards are concerned, Gandalf the Grey finally unleashes what he's made of. You know, MAGIC! The realm of the Necromancer seeds the idea of the Dark One's return, too.
You can tell that time and effort has been put into crafting these majestic adventures. The visuals are just out of this world and they should be. There are parts where the effects seem obvious or unfinished. Sometimes artificial lighting doesn't blend well with bright animate objects that look painfully cheap, in a way. The outside of Sindarin Erebor is breathtaking as well as the dark green mines inside. Hard to believe it was crafted by creatures half out size. Unfortunately I didn't get to see HFR even though I went to an IMAX screening.
Now Desolation of Smaug isn't perfect by any stretch of the Tolkien imagination. What was being accomplished with Tauriel and Kili felt like it was missing more development. Some moments actually slow down the pacing and overall goal of the plot. We meet Bard the Bowman (Evans), the first human we get to see in Middle Earth who comes off as a brawny version of Legolas. His people lived together in Dale, near Erebor until the day Smaug burned it all to the ground. We wonder through Laketown, but it is at this part of the story that I was close to a snooze fest. Don't get me wrong, the more I see from Middle Earth, the better and this place does transfer to There and Back Again (which we'll see next year).
Finally (the moment you've been waiting for) Smaug. Have you ever wondered why in the world a dragon, of all things, would ever need to invade a Dwarf kingdom, steal and live inside a near limitless pile of riches? Wouldn't be surprised if Smaug was inspired by Bearded Dragons whom have an attraction for shiny things. Trâgu,The Golden,The Magnificent, Dragon of Erebor. This character is the only reason why I spent the extra coin. How was it that Bilbo described him? "Truly songs and tales fall utterly short of your enormity, O Smaug the Stupendous...". These words just don't do him justice. He's like the Godzilla of dragons. Smaug is basically the love child of Sean Connery's Draco and the dragon from Reign of Fire. If you combine Darth Vader's voice with that of Draco, you also get Smaug. I have never seen such a magnanimous execution of a character I don't know anything about and yet be able to acknowledge more than I could have if I had read the source material. His design is flawless as well as the voice casting. Benedict C*mberbatch just makes this beast that much more dangerous. His scenes make the last 20-30 minutes of the film seem flawlessly. When the scene cut to black, all I could say was:
"Well played Peter Jackson, well played."
Overall, The Desolation of Smaug is bigger, literally. It has some problems here and there, but overall it is a welcomed addition into this universe Peter Jackson has managed to father for the past twelve years.
Written by: Bawnian©-Dexeus.